Paul once thought he was so rich in many things, but one day he realised he wasn’t that rich at all and his value system was completely reoriented. He learned that you’re never going to enjoy true joy until you discover what true treasure is.
Remember Paul is writing to a church in need of a joy transfusion and so he says to them, ‘finally brothers’, and notice that it’s Biblical for a preacher to say, ‘finally’ and then go on for a long time. He says, ‘finally’ in the middle of a book and then goes on for two more chapters.
Paul wants the Philippians to have lasting joy and notice it depends on self doctrine. In other words, it depends on them having the proper understanding of the Gospel of grace. Grace and joy go together, the Greek word for grace is ‘charis’ and the Greek word for joy is ‘chara’.
And we’re never going to have lasting joy until we embrace the Gospel of grace. If our righteousness depends on performance, we’re full of anxiety. If our salvation depends on your performance, we’re never going to have lasting joy.
This is the problem of legalism, of making human righteousness the basis of salvation. That’s why in Galatia when Paul was writing to the Galatian churches about this exact problem, of people wanting to add the Gospel of works to the Gospel of grace, Galatians 4:15.
Paul wants the Philippian church to have joy and the best way to safeguard our joy is to learn to rejoice in the Lord and not in ourselves. But the problem is that Satan wants to plant in good, healthy churches, people that want to advocate a grace plus works Gospel.
Now that’s what happening in Philippi and Galatia. These Judaizers come up and say, ‘yes, Jesus is good and Jesus is great, we believe in grace, we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and circumcision. So just be circumcised and add that to the Gospel and you’ll be saved.’
And in every generation, some people want to add to the Gospel of grace and if you let them, your joy is going to go out the window.
Paul says, ‘watch out for these dogs, these doers of evil, these mutilators of the flesh.’ That’s pretty strong language but Paul was tired of these guys who had been dogging him and his mission work for years.
Interestingly, Jews used to call Gentiles dogs. Paul turns it around and says, ‘they’re the dogs’, he says, ‘I wish they would just mutilate themselves’.
Now if those words aren’t offensive to us, it’s because we don’t cherish the Gospel as much as Paul does. Paul gets fighting mad when people start messing with the Gospel.
Paul doesn’t have a problem with circumcision, but he has a big problem with acquiring any religious activity to supplement the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He would rather fight than switch Gospels.
And the reason he was so critical is because we miss out on joy when we misplace our confidence. If we put our confidence in our ability to do anything to please God, we’re going to lose joy. Paul had to learn to give his flesh a vote of no confidence.
When Paul talks about placing no confidence in the flesh, he’s not just talking about the worst of man. When we think of the flesh, we think about drunkenness, immorality and greed and idolatry, that’s part of the flesh.
But he’s not just talking about the worst that is in man, he’s talking about the best that is in man. The part of man that tries to do good, the part of man that studies his Bible, the part of man that shares his faith, the part of man that goes to church.
He says, ‘I don’t place any confidence in that either’. The flesh is that self-confident spirit that says, ‘I can please God by myself.’ It’s the flesh that makes us think we are richer than we really are and nobody learned this lesson better than Paul did.
Paul learned two radical lessons which changed his life.
1. My righteousness gains nothing.
Paul says, ‘there are two types of righteousness that are available to us today’. There’s divine righteousness that’s the gift of God and there’s human righteousness that you accumulate as you do religious things.
Most people prefer the second kind of righteousness but we just tend to trust anything that we can contribute. We’re the same way with our salvation, we like that kind of righteousness that has to be added to and we think that’s more trustworthy.
Paul knows about that, he was the number one draft pick of the Jewish religion. He was a model example of how you acquire those things that make you rich in human righteousness, Philippians 3:4. Paul had those things that would make us rich in human righteousness.
1. Inheritance advantages.
He says, ‘look at my heritage’, Philippians 3:5-6. People do that today, ‘I’ve been going to church for 70 years, my daddy was a preacher, my granddad was an elder, my great granddad was one of the first members of the church’ and we boast and place confidence in our heritage.
2. Performance advantages.
He says ‘check me out, I was a Pharisee, he says there were only 6000 allowed in that club and I was one of them. Not only that but according to my zeal, I loved Judaism so much that I travelled all over the world to kill people who opposed it and check out my legalistic righteousness, try to find one thing I was doing wrong in the law of Moses.’ Philippians 3:5-6
When he says, ‘I was blameless, faultless’, he doesn’t mean he never sinned, he means that even when he sinned, he did exactly what the Law of Moses told him what to do, Philippians 3:6.
When Paul is criticising human righteousness, he’s not doing it as an outsider. He didn’t write as a have not, he wrote as somebody who had everything, but then he realised one day, he had nothing.
One day changed his life, he’s on the road to Damascus, and he’s going to persecute some more Christians and add some more human righteousness to his bank account. And suddenly he encountered a blinding light that threw him to the ground.
What happened that day, when Paul met Jesus Christ for the first time in his life, he got a glimpse of perfect righteousness and he suddenly realised he was on the wrong road in more ways than one. One glimpse of the perfect righteousness of Jesus and suddenly he realised all of his righteousness had gained him nothing.
Paul understood what the Old Testament said when he quoted ‘as it is written: there is no one righteous, not even one,’ Romans 3:10. He might have even added, ‘not even me’.
Paul’s trying to say, ‘I worked myself to the bone, I piled up one credit after another of human righteousness, and now I realise that if you haven’t done it my way, you haven’t missed a thing because all of that gained me nothing’.
This text stands as a strong warning to anybody who thinks all God is looking for is moral living and some strong convictions. Hell is going to be full of nice people with strong convictions.
As far as human righteousness goes, nobody has more credits than Paul and he was on his way to Hell. God is looking for more than a moral life and some strong convictions. God is looking for surrender to the Gospel.
So Paul says later ‘but a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known, to which the prophets testify, this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ Romans 3:20-21.
The righteousness of God demands a vote of no confidence in the flesh. We’ve got to turn away from our own view of our goodness and we’ve got to accept God’s view of our goodness. And then we’ve got to turn from our goodness to God’s. We’ve got to understand that our righteousness gains nothing.
2. ‘My faith gains His righteousness’.
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t just that people can be saved, it’s that people can be saved by faith, instead of by works. The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that salvation isn’t a matter of climbing upstairs, it’s a lift from almighty God, 1 Peter 3:18.
We don’t step our way to God with human righteousness, we receive righteousness when Christ brings us by faith, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Once Paul got a glimpse of perfect righteousness, that day on the road to Damascus, he never again preached anything but the Jesus plus nothing plan of salvation.
He could afford to surrender everything else but not Christ. Once he found the real treasure, it’s amazing how unimportant all those other riches were anymore, Philippians 3:7-8.
Paul says, ‘it’s just garbage, and I’m happy to call it garbage because I don’t want any more the righteousness that comes from keeping laws, I want the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ.’
Jesus Christ didn’t come to contribute to our salvation, He came to pay for it. Paul is saying that ‘God’s way of making us right with him depends on faith,’ Philippians 3:9. What is that?
It’s counting on Christ alone. Faith is placing confidence in Christ’s work and acknowledging no confidence in my flesh. Voting no confidence in our ability to obtain righteousness and total confidence in Christ’s ability to give us righteousness, when we trust Him.
Paul knew what he was saying when he said, ‘Rejoice in the Lord it is a safeguard for you,’ Philippians 3:1. It’s the only way to keep that joy lasting and permanent, it’s when that joy is in the Lord.
Whenever it dawns on our little minds, whenever it breaks through when we finally understand that our righteous in the eyes of God because of the gift of Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:8.
Do you know what is going to happen? The Holy Spirit is just going to prompt outbursts of worship in our life. We’re going to love to worship, we can’t wait for church to start, and we won’t ever want church to end.
Legalists go to church because they have to but grace centred Christians can’t wait to get to church, because they have to worship by the Spirit of God.
Grace and joy go together, it means you’re leaning solely on the work of Christ and it’s going to mean ‘releasing anything that competes with Christ’. When Paul says, ‘I count it all a loss,’ in Philippians 3:7, that same word is used back in Acts 27:10.
Remember when Paul was on a ship and it had all this valuable cargo and it was worth a whole lot until there was a storm at sea and suddenly they had to throw stuff overboard to save their lives. And that cargo that was so valuable, all of a sudden it’s just lost.
It doesn’t count so much anymore when we’re trying to save our life. And that’s the word that Paul uses, and what he’s saying is, ‘we need to throw away anything that’s hindering our relationship to Christ’.
Notice Paul didn’t just throw away junk for Jesus, he threw away stuff that once was of tremendous value to him. I think Paul would say that’s how many people spend their lives, in trivial pursuits.
Paul said ‘I didn’t know it was trivial, I thought what I was going after in my life was really valuable but one day I saw Jesus Christ and now I realise that all that stuff I was trying to get, it’s just rubbish. I have a new passion now, and my new passion is to know Jesus Christ my Lord, nothing competes with that’. Philippians 3:9.
How do we know Jesus Christ is Lord? We know Jesus Christ is Lord when we’re willing every day to die and live for Him. He says, ‘I want Jesus Christ so bad, I want to live like him and wherever Jesus lives, that’s where I want to be,’ Philippians 3:10.
Notice he put resurrection first, do you know why? Because the resurrection isn’t just a doctrine, it’s an event and it’s powerful to the Christian today. And when we know the power of the living Christ, we’re increasingly going to go into places and suffer for Christ.
When the living Christ is inside us and the power that raised Him from the dead is filled up in our life, suddenly we’re willing to go anywhere and do anything to suffer for Christ. Because that’s all we really care about, is living and dying for Christ every day.
All Paul wanted was to know Christ, that was his quest, it was a quest that was going to occupy the rest of his life. He was determined that nothing was going to keep him from knowing more and more and more about Christ.
Paul has just finished saying, ‘anything is rubbish except this, knowing Christ.’ Paul said, ‘that anything we do to get human righteousness is rubbish, we’re not saved by our effort or by our merit.’ We’re saved by putting faith in the work of Christ and when we put faith in Christ, we receive divine righteousness.
Now after saying human righteousness is rubbish, is Paul now saying, ‘that salvation is the product of human effort?’ No, we need to understand how Paul thinks. Paul isn’t saying, ‘we need to strain to be saved’. He’s describing the activity of somebody who has abandoned all the claims to merit.
The way people live who have received divine righteousness through their faith in Christ. Paul knows he’s saved, Philippians 3:12. He knows that Christ holds him, he knows that Christ has embraced him.
What he’s saying is, ‘because Christ has embraced me because Christ has pursued me, I’m going to spend the rest of my life pursuing Christ.’
The way we live in grace is by pursuing the One who pursued us. Jesus Christ came and paid the ultimate sacrifice, why? So that He could take hold of us. So how do you spend the rest of your life?
Doing what Paul was doing, trying to take hold, of more and more and more of Christ and the knowledge of Him. In other words, what we’re trying to do is what Paul said earlier ‘we try to work out that salvation, God has worked in,’ Philippians 2:12.
Remember when the Bible says, ‘we’re saved by faith not by works,’ Ephesians 2:8-9. In the Bible faith is always described as a walk, when we live by faith, we’re moving, we’re active, and we’re going somewhere.
A great example of faith in the Bible is Abraham, the Father of the faithful. He spent his whole life in a tent, he spent his whole life on the move following the lead of God. And so when Paul says, ‘you’re saved by faith’, he doesn’t mean you become a spiritual couch potato. We’re supposed to be active in our pursuit of the goal that God has for us.
Now when Paul says, ‘I’m pursuing that goal,’ Philippians 3:14, he’s not talking about salvation, he’s already got that in Christ. The goal he’s talking about is Christ-likeness, He’s pursuing an increasing knowledge of Christ so that he could become more and more like Christ.
In other words, is a quest to ‘morph’. The Bible says it’s possible for us to ‘morph’, to become increasingly more like Jesus Christ. To think and feel and act more and more as Jesus did. Now, are we going to receive that perfection in this life? No. We’re not going to receive that perfect ‘morphing’ until He comes back, Philippians 3:12.
In other words, Paul was never going to say, ‘someday I’ll come to Philippi and stand up and say, ‘I’ve arrived, I’m as mature and complete and perfect in knowledge of Christ as you could possibly be.’ Paul says, ‘I’ll never be able to say that’.
Now, before he became a Christian he thought that, before he was a Christian he thought he had arrived spiritually. But once you start knowing Jesus Christ, you understand that there’s always more to know, there’s always more growing to do and so we never arrive at our perfect knowledge of Christ.
But we have an understanding that God’s purpose for us in this life is to aim, and even strain for increasing Christlikeness, to desire to ‘morph’.
Notice that Paul writes to the Romans, ‘we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28. We usually stop right there and don’t read the next verse, which tells what the purpose we have been called for is.
Why has God called us? Why does He make all things work out? ‘Because He foreknew and predestined that we’re conformed to the likeness of His Son,’ Romans 8:29. That word ‘conform’ is your word ‘morph.’
God’s plan for us wasn’t just to give us fire insurance, God’s plan when He saved us and took hold of us is that we would ‘morph’ into the likeness of Christ. That’s God’s plan, that’s God’s purpose, that’s what Paul says, ‘I’m straining for,’ Philippians 3:14.
Christ has taken hold of us, now we’re straining to take hold of Christ. We’re straining to grow in our knowledge of Christ, so we can be more like Christ. Paul’s trying to say, ‘Jesus Christ came and died for freedom so that we could be free from sin and go to heaven.’
That’s why God works all things out so that He could make you look more and more like Jesus and represent Him, Galatians 4:19. Remember Galatians is dealing with the problem of legalism and we need to understand that legalists for the most part have good hearts.
They see people that aren’t growing spiritually and they want to help them and the way they want to help them is by giving rules. And so the legalist in Paul’s day said, ‘be circumcised, eat this food but don’t eat that food, don’t go here but go there, honour this day but don’t honour that day.’
And by rules, they were going to help you look more like Jesus. The problem with that is if we’re going to look more like Jesus, we’ve got to change on the inside and the outside rules can’t do that. They think if we give everyone a bunch of rules, we’re going to change on the inside to be like Jesus.
The only way we can change a person on the inside, the only way we can really ‘morph’ is if we listen and obey the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Paul’s point is this when Jesus Christ came He took hold of us and now God’s purpose and goal are that we’ll take hold of Christ and ‘morph’ into the image of Christ as we follow the Spirit.
And when we follow the Spirit, we don’t become a spiritual couch potato, we get up on the move. When we listen to the Spirit we’re going to be active and growing and straining.
What Paul is trying to say is, ‘Jesus Christ came all the way from heaven to earth.’ Why? To get us to start it? No, to get us finished. He had a purpose for us, a goal for us, He wants us crossing that line and ‘morphing’ into His image.
Paul knew how to run the race and he gives us three pieces of advice to help us run.
1. Forget the past.
If we’re going to run the race, we need to forget the past, Philippians 3:13. When he says, ‘forget’, he doesn’t mean we’re going to forget our knowledge of Scripture, our Christian friends, our experiences of God’s grace. We’re going to remember that, in fact, the central act of Christian worship is memory, 1 Corinthians 11:24.
Our problem is we like to remember what we ought to forget and we forget what we ought to remember. Paul is saying, ‘we don’t let anything in our past impede our progress, in becoming more like Jesus.’
Paul had some ugly stuff in his past too and he didn’t forget in the sense that he couldn’t remember what it was that he used to do. But he forgets in the sense that he didn’t let it control him anymore and keep him from running the race.
Don’t let your life get sidelined by sins God can’t remember. We need to forget our sins and get back on track and start growing into the image of Jesus.
Some of us need to forget our successes, Paul had to do that too, he could talk about all the churches he planted, all the sermons he preached, all the letters he wrote. But let me tell you something about living on the past, the mercy God gave you for yesterday was good for yesterday but the devil is after you brand new today.
But the good news is Lamentations 3:22-23 that God’s mercies are new every morning. God’s got mercy to give us today for our run today.
What Paul is saying, is that we need to forget about the good old days and you need to forget about the bad old days and we need to run today. Because God has got some growing and learning for you to do today.
That word ‘forget’ means we do it daily, it’s a part of your training as a Christian. Something we do every day is forget. We forget all the stuff in the past, good and bad that would keep us from running hard today.
2. We need to listen to the coach.
If we want to run a good race, listen to the coach. We’re all on this path to perfection in Christ but we’re all at different stages of progress. And one of the things that bog us down is we wonder, what are we going to do about all those people who aren’t running very fast?
We can by encouraging them, we can set a good example for them by the way that we run, we can pray for them and ask God to bless them. we can do what Paul did, trust God and leave it to him, Philippians 3:15. God is more committed to our maturity than we are.
In every chapter in Philippians Paul says, ‘God is more interested in you growing into Christ than you are and He’s at work doing it.’ Philippians 1:6 / Philippians 2:13 / Philippians 4:13 / Philippians 3:15. That’s one reason why God lets us have trials.
Remember back in Romans 8:28? ‘All things work for good.’ The Bible doesn’t say, ‘all things are good’, but ‘God works all things for good according to his purpose that you become like Jesus,’ Romans 8:28-29.
God lets hard things happen so that He could speak to us and coach us and get us back out there running the race, the way He wants us to run it. God is more committed to our being more like Jesus than we are. So are we listening to the coach? Are we staying in touch with the Holy Spirit?
We’ve got to run every time the Spirit says run, you’ve got to obey every time the Spirit says obey, Galatians 5:25. Every time we obey the Spirit’s leading, God will reveal more to us and we can run further the next day, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
3. Focus on the goal.
Paul says, ‘One thing I do’ ‘not twenty things I dabble in.’ ‘One thing I do, I press on toward the goal, for the prize which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,’ Philippians 3:13-14.
Paul is saying, ‘I’m going to evaluate my life, I’m going to recalibrate my life, I’m going to re-order my life, if I’m going to let anything into my life, it’s going to have to past this test.’
If we want to run a good race, we put our eye on the finish line and we stare at it until we get there. Paul wouldn’t let anything take his eye off that goal, he says, ‘I’m going to have perfect knowledge of Christ, I’m going to finish the race and He’s going to give me His perfect crown of righteousness.’ 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
All through the Bible the saints say to God, ‘how long, how long are we going to have to wait for Jesus to come and deliver us from this sin-cursed planet?’
But the problem is, as that wait continues, we find ourselves becoming increasingly attracted and seduced by the pleasures of this world. So we’re temporary residents, this world isn’t really our home but we’re going to have to be here a while.
Jesus for a time, wants us to live among the daily debris of this sin-cursed planet, John 17:15. Paul says, ‘we’ve got to walk off that wait.’ We’ve got to wait, we’ve got to wait with eagerness for what we long for. And what Paul said was, ‘the way to solve my wait problem is with a good daily walk.’
Three times in that text he says, ‘I want you to walk off that wait.’ Paul is telling the Philippians, ‘I want you to walk after the pattern set by Jesus Christ,’ Philippians 2:6-8. But Paul recognises and it breaks his heart to do it, Paul recognises that some people don’t walk that way.
Paul’s describing people who profess Christ but their lives are denying what their lips are confessing, Philippians 3:18-19. He calls them enemies of the cross, why? Because they’re walking in a way that denies the priority of pursuing Christ-likeness, Philippians 3:12-14.
But some people aren’t walking that way, they’re disgracing the cross with the way they’re walking while we wait for Jesus. And Paul says, ‘their wait problem could prove fatal’.
Paul tells us three pieces of advice, which will help us walk while were waiting.
1. Paul tells us, ‘to always regard who we walk with’.
As we wait for the return of Jesus, we need to pay special attention to who we’re walking our model after, Philippians 3:17. Paul wasn’t bashful, he knew that Jesus was doing something real in his life and so he says, ‘I’m not shy about it if you need a model, choose me, walk like I’m walking’. He says the same thing over in 1 Corinthians 11:1.
Paul was humble enough, not to say he was the only one who ought to be a model, Philippians 3:17. In other words, Paul says, ‘I’m not the only one whose walk you can copy.’ We better regard who we’re walking with b we need to remember that somebody is watching our walk too.
2. Paul says, ‘always remember what we walk under’.
What brought Paul to tears was the knowledge that many so-called Christians were disgracing the cross by their pursuit of sensual pleasure. Their walking grace value was in direct contradiction to the standards of the cross. Christians that actually glory in things they should be ashamed of.
God gave us a gift, God gave us the gift of five senses but the problem is we make getting the pleasure out of those senses our god. We make our stomach our god, Philippians 3:19, and Paul isn’t talking so much about particular sins. He’s talking about the sin of pandering to self, of making my pleasure the centre of my life.
And he says, ‘that disgraces the cross’ because if the cross says anything, the cross says, ‘we’re to deny ourselves and seek the will of God first.’ The cross is an ‘I’ that has been ruled out, Galatians 5:24.
If we’re a people walking under the cross of Jesus Christ we’ve got to give up the pet sin heresy, Romans 6:8-14. It’s a heresy that plagues many Christians.
The pet sin heresy says, ‘you know we live under grace, we can’t be perfect and I’ve got one part in my life that’s totally out of control but hey after all nobody is perfect and were under grace and so you don’t do anything about it.’
Now Paul is saying, ‘now listen we’ve died to self, we’ve died to sin, that’s what carrying the cross is about, there is no part of our life anymore which should be out of control, every part of our life should now be under the control of Jesus Christ.’
When Jesus Christ returns, when the wait is over, we want Him to be able to see that we’ve got the cross He gave us. We’ve traded in all that stuff that used to be important. we’ve traded in all that stuff that the world calls valuable. If the cross is important to us, it’s going to change how we think, Colossians 3:1-4.
3. ‘Always reflect where we’re walking to.’
He says, ‘Our citizenship is in heaven,’ Philippians 3:20. Notice the text says, ‘is’ in heaven, present tense, Heaven is our present possession.
The Philippians could understand that remember Philippi was a Roman colony, it was 600 miles from Rome and a lot of people had never been to Rome but they were Roman citizens. They dressed like Romans, they ate like Romans, and they spoke the Roman language. They lived the Roman culture, they obeyed the Roman laws.
But what Paul is saying is, ‘we too are citizens of a city we haven’t seen yet, talk like heaven people, dress like heaven people, obey the laws of heaven, live the culture of heaven.’ In other words, he says, ‘we want to live here like we’re already there. Let our walk reflect where we’re going’.
Paul is saying, ‘if we really believe that, then let our conduct match our citizenship, as we wait here, walk as if we were there.’ And one thing, which is going to keep us motivated, is that one-day the emperor is going to show up. In other words, be ready for Him to come, walk like you’re ready for Him to come, Philippians 3:20.
There are some things inappropriate if we really believe that Jesus is going to come. They are parts of our walk, we just don’t want, if we really believe, Jesus is coming back to take us home, 1 John 3:2-3.
Paul says ‘when He comes back, the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, Philippians 3:21. In other words, some people wish He wouldn’t come back and some people oppose the return of Jesus.
But there’s not a person, there’s not a demon, there’s not a creature of hell that can stop it, when Jesus says, ‘it’s time to come back.’ That’s when we’re going to get our total salvation, we don’t have it yet, Philippians 3:21.
The total salvation Jesus won for us on the cross, we haven’t received yet because God doesn’t just want to save our souls, He wants to save our bodies.
Our bodies are lowly, they are still subject to sin, death and decay and disease but God’s got a plan that Jesus Christ is going to come back, and he’s got the power that puts everything under the control is going to change our bodies, our lowly bodies, to be like His glorious body.